Getting your shit together

If there is one thing that really pisses me off it’s disorganised people. I used to be terribly disorganised, so I approach incompetence with the zeal of a reformed sinner. I know how stressful it is to live in a world that lacks order, and I know how easy it is to put right. So hey, why not just get your shit together?

Some people are just lazy. Basically, they don’t give a crap and when the shit hits the fan, they’ll just deal with the consequences. These people are often lost causes and they should be weeded out of any organisation that actually wants to get things done.

The second set of disorganised people are the ones that do care. Maybe they are so stressed out by their workload, they can’t help themselves. Or maybe some of these people just lack the basic organisational skills to systematically order their lives.

These people need saving. Nobody, other than your rivals, can gain from disorder and inefficiency. We all suffer.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m so disorganised. I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on.” Why is this person disorganised? If they know they can’t competently recall events and tasks, why haven’t they addressed this? Maybe someone should unscrew their head, just to teach them a lesson.

To be organised is, as the word suggests, to have a system. Not all systems work for all people, but a system one must have. I have a system, do you?

The first rule any productivity expert usually lays down is that your system should be a global mechanism for your entire existence. Not just a system for your professional life, but also your personal one. Separate diaries rarely work, so the unified diary is key for the productive professional. This is not to suggest that work should rule your life. Not at all. Work and life should be in balance. They should compliment each other.

As a long-term Mac user, it often surprises people when they learn that my GTD system is primarily Windows based. At my workplace it’s all Microsoft Enterprise. We use Outlook for all meetings and planning our diary. As much as I’d love to use BusyCal, OmniPlan or Things on the Mac, it makes no sense when I’d then have to plug that data back into Outlook to reconcile with my work schedule.

I do stick some personal to-dos into TaskPaper on my Macs, but they’re very much “write a blog post about this” type tasks. Otherwise it’s Outlook on my Dell work laptop or via. my Nokia E72 Enterprise smartphone. A single diary and to-do list for both my work and personal life.

And I plan everything… even personal rest time. I plan time each week for routine tasks, and ensure that every project is visited at least once each week. I have recurring periods of Catch up time and I have two 30-minute diary review periods each week. Tuesday’s and Friday’s. Even mowing the lawn is a recurring summertime diary appointment! And I’m am always very reluctant to reschedule anything.

And do you know why my system is so important to me? I don’t have to think about anything other than the task at hand. I don’t have to worry about any specific project, because I know I have time scheduled for it, and if it’s falling behind, I will pick this up in review and plan additional time into my system. Also, I know at any one time where I am with any project, and I know the next actionable task to move that project along. I don’t have to remember tasks because they’re always in the one system. This allows me to concentrate 100% on what I’m doing. It’s liberating. You feel stress seep away, and you become far more productive.

I use other non-diary systems too. I have systems for writing, document control (a tickler file) and maintain various matrices for different things. No doubt write I’ll about these soon.